Corsicana, Texas, has two major exports: fruitcake and elite cheerleading.
The 24,000-person, blood-red conservative town is described by its residents as gently paced and quiet, but the cheer team at Navarro College is anything but. Watching the team perform is an overwhelming thrill ― it’s hard to know where to look as the cheerleaders flip, tumble, jump and fly in perfect formation. (Until, you know, they don’t, and someone ends up horribly injured.) The junior college has been regularly winning national championships since 2000, under the captivating and terrifying perfectionist guidance of coach Monica Aldama.
Aldama, who has been coaching at Navarro for 24 years, is treated by her cheerleaders (“her kids,” as she calls them), as both a mother figure and a god. She’s a character almost perfectly calibrated to be appealing to a wide swath of viewers: a beautiful, conservative, religious mother who will argue with her pastor about gay rights, and supports one of her cheerleaders without judgement when someone posts nude photos of the young woman on Twitter.
The six episodes in “Cheer” follow the Navarro team as they prepare for the National Cheerleading Association’s championship in Daytona Beach, Florida. The journey is (literally) full of blood, sweat and tears.
Three HuffPost reporters devoured “Cheer” this week, and had no shortage of thoughts about the series.
The Bottom Line
“Cheer” is a heartwarming series that gives real insight into the wild world of elite cheerleading, while providing an entertaining and substantive distraction from the winter blues.
Emma Gray: Guys, I just finished Netflix’s “Cheer” today, and I think I have already forgotten what life was like before I was deeply invested in the Navarro College Cheer team. This docu-series is a riveting, heartfelt peek into the world of elite collegiate cheerleading, something that I admit I knew painfully little about outside of fictional depictions like “Bring It On.” But six episodes of television later, I want more ― both on cheerleading and on the lives of the young adults that populate Navarro’s program. Also, all I want in the world now is to earn the approval of Navarro head coach Monica Aldama. Matt, Leigh, what did you guys think?
Leigh Blickley: Perusing my Netflix queue last weekend, I debated whether to watch “The Circle” before spotting the “Cheer” key art. Ten minutes into the first episode, I was hooked. Flips, twists, falls, a crazy coaching staff. I was enthralled by the athleticism, but also by the emotional state of the team and their advisors. I just knew something much more was going on here than the pursuit of a national championship title.
Matthew Jacobs: What a spirited and big-hearted show. From my tiny corner of the world, everyone seems to be talking about it, which is a hopeful thing to see. I dig “Cheer” most as a snapshot of a sport ― a lifestyle, really ― that often goes unrecognized. Cheerleading has everything: community, competition, capitalism. As a series, it left me with a ton of lingering questions, but I enjoyed the hell out of these scrappy athletes.